As much as we all want to go back to the times when we had no responsibilities or financial obligations, alas, this is not possible. Instead, we all have to take steps toward becoming better adults, which means learning important things like how to write a winning cover letter and, of course, how to budget.
Budgeting is an extremely complicated skill, though, and all of the seemingly miniscule expenses we pay for on a day-to-day basis make creating a solid budget even more complex. If you’re in the midst of getting your finances in order, take a look at these seven small expenses you may be forgetting to budget for:
1. Alcoholic Beverages
Going out for dinner is one thing, but when you add beer, wine, and cocktails into the mix, it can take your bill from budget-friendly to sky high. Drinks add up fast, and especially if you’re going out on the weekend, you shouldn’t expect to have just one.
If you give yourself a budget for drinks per week, you’ll know exactly how many nights of revelry you can afford – and whether you should stick to water or soda with dinner during the week, rather than shelling out extra for that Moscow mule.
2. Impulse Grocery Buys
Believe it or not, there is such thing as going to the grocery store too many times. Although some people prefer to hit their nearby market a few times per week to pick up food in smaller quantities, planning fewer trips can help you save money.
That’s because the more often you go to the store, the more likely you are to grab a box of cookies that sounds really good right now or pick up some gum and a new magazine at the register. These odds and ends add up fast, so going to the store less often can help you stick to a tighter grocery budget.
3. Bank and ATM Fees
Every time you go to an ATM, and a message pops up that says “A $2.00 service fee will be added to this transaction,” or something along those lines, you should stop and think for a second. These fees may seem like small one-off charges, but they add up more than you might think.
Bank and ATM charges are also pretty easy to avoid. Plan ahead and get cash from your own bank, or take advantage of the cash back option at grocery and convenience stores the next time you go. You’ll save at least a few bucks a month.
4. That Daily Trip to the Coffee Shop
I know, I know – this is one you’ve heard a million times. However, it bears repeating: Going to a coffee shop daily – or even a few times a week – is a great way to throw away tons of cash a year.
If you can’t commit to never going to your local Starbucks again, build these trips to the coffee shop into your budget. Give yourself a set amount you can spend there each week and learn to make great coffee at home.
5. Eating Out
We’ve already discussed the added expense of alcoholic beverages, but eating out is a pretty significant financial burden on its own. Most people know they should limit restaurant meals to save money, but even smaller eating-out trips – like if you get lunch from a nearby fast food place every day at work – can take a hit on your budget just as much.
You may be surprised by the amount of money you’ll save by introducing a “weekday lunches” budget into your overall financial plan. Bringing lunch to work most of the time and going out just once or twice a week is a great way to stretch your finances a bit further.
Prescriptions and doctor co-pays are sometimes hard to plan for – you never know when you may need a check-up with your optometrist or some antibiotics to get you through a stomach bug. However, it’s good to include these small extra health expenses into your budget, just in case you need them.
Also, plan ahead budget-wise for those health expenses you do know are coming up, like annual check-ups or dental appointments.
7. Interest on Your Credit Card
This sneaky added expense is easy to overlook. After all, credit card interest doesn’t affect your monthly budget as much as it affects your long-term finances. However, it’s good to think about how much you can expect to pay in interest on your credit card purchases, and factor that into the price of the item before you buy it.
In other words, a $300 television will cost substantially more than that after accruing interest for several months. Make sure you’re budgeting for that added interest, and try to pay off your debt as quickly as you can to avoid the extra expense entirely.